July 29, 2020

Behrouz Boochani granted refugee status in New Zealand


Photo of Behrouz Boochani by Hoda Afshar (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian writer, film maker, and human rights activist who uncovered Australia’s harsh treatment of refugees, was granted asylum in New Zealand, after long wait, on July 23.

Marking seven years since his detainment on Manus Island in Papua, New Guinea, and his birthday, he received the news this past Thursday that his application for a one year working visa in New Zealand was accepted. He originally traveled to New Zealand on a one-month visa to speak at a literary festival about his award-winning memoir which details much of his time in detention, No Friend But the Mountains. Once the visa expired, he resided quietly in Christchurch while applying for his next visa.

Boochani, tentatively excited for this bookending change, remains focused on the attitude Australia holds towards asylum seekers like himself. To this day, refugees await release from indefinite detainment. Disconcerted with Australia’s harsh immigration policy, Boochani told the New York Times, “the policy exists, and so that’s why it’s really difficult to fully enjoy this.” In his memoir, Boochani exposes the injustices, inhumane living conditions, injury, and death asylum seekers sustained under the Australian government through firsthand accounts compiled on his phone and translated through WhatsApp correspondence.

While struggling as a detainee, Boochani strove to share the stories he and his peers experienced. Because he was at times the sole reporter of the misdeeds taking place on Manus Island, he was tortured for days on end. Even though his time in detention is over, Boochani’s work is far from done. Today, he works as a researcher at the University of Canterbury and continues to amplify the voices of those still suffering under the brutal conditions of detainment camps through his writing with a collection of short stories on the way.



Andy Dion is an intern at Melville House.